Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the fateful day of her First Communion, when her life changes forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.
Walls of Silence is the debut novel by screenplay translator Helen Pryke. It’s set in Italy in the 1960s, and deals with the difficult topic of violence against women in a frank, often raw manner.
The book is written retrospectively from the main character, Maria’s perspective. An idyllic childhood becomes a nightmare leading to a cascade of traumatic circumstances.
From the beginning, Ms. Pryke beautifully describes 1960s Italy, making the small village and large towns equally alive so that the reader can easily get lost in the settings. More noticeably, however, the author draws the reader into Maria’s reality with excellent character development, and vivid descriptions of events that guide her story. So much so that there are parts that are quite difficult to read, and if you’re looking for a feel-good book, this isn’t it.
Although the story is primarily Maria’s story, the author cleverly introduces a side-storyline which allows the book to have a lighter tone, and while it felt a little unrealistic compared to the harsh reality of Maria’s circumstances, it thankfully serves to leave the reader hopeful rather than despaired.
Ms. Pryke’s writing style makes Walls of Silence easy to read, even if the subject matter is difficult, and I would recommend this book to anyone willing to take an honest look behind the ‘walls of silence’ built up by women who are caught in a violent situation.
Walls of Silence by Helen Pryke is available on Amazon, and the author is donating part of sale proceeds to a woman’s shelter in the UK.